The head of the FCC wants people to be allowed to unlock their phones and take them to other carrier networks — and is threatening to force carriers to comply.
Yesterday (Nov. 14), FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler sent a letter to Steve Largent, president of CTIA — The Wireless Association (and pro football Hall of Famer), asking for cellphone carriers to let people unlock their phones "once their contracts are fulfilled."
"We are anxious to work with you and your members to resolve this matter expeditiously," Wheeler stated in the letter. "Enough time has passed, and it is now time for the industry to act voluntarily or for the FCC to regulate."
In the letter, Wheeler wrote that the FCC has been working with the CTIA for eight months to amend CTIA's consumer code to allow such unlocking.
The FCC insists that carriers keep consumers informed that such unlocking is possible, and actively notify consumers when they are eligible to make an unlocking request — or even unlock off-contract phones automatically.
The proposed amendment also asks that unlocking be free for consumers, and be available, regardless of contract status, for military personnel being deployed overseas.
"It appears," Wheeler wrote, "that CTIA and the FCC are in agreement on all but the … item regarding consumer notification."
Wheeler, who preceded Largent as president of CTIA, ended the letter with a friendly but firm suggestion.
"Let's set a goal," Wheeler wrote, "of including the full unlocking rights policy in the CTIA Consumer Code before the December holiday season."